Wednesday 1 April, 14:00-16:00, Birkbeck Cinema

Booking link

Workshop with Garrett Bradley

With the support of Arts Council England.

In this session, Garrett Bradley will explore her approach to filmmaking, reflecting on her recent work and her conceptualisation of her practice. As an artist Bradley’s work addresses questions of race, class, Southern culture and film history, and formally stretches through a multitude of filmmaking traditions, in this way conforming to our festival’s fluid definition of the film essay. This artist-led workshop provides attendees an opportunity to hear about the processes involved in Bradley’s filmmaking and will address questions of sound-composition, artistic practice as research, and the interaction between experimental formal techniques and the archive.


Tuesday 31 March, 20:55-23:00, ICA 

Booking link

To bring the world into the world: a programme by Sarah Wood

Films: Dear Rosa, Sarah Wood, UK, 2019, video, 3 minutes

The Bravest Boat, Sarah Wood & Ali Smith, UK, 2019, video, 10 minutes

Memory of the Future, Sarah Wood, UK, 2018, two-screen video, 28 minutes

The End of the War, Sarah Wood, UK, 2020, video, 20 minutes

Following the screening, Sarah Wood will be in conversation with Catherine Grant, Essay Film Festival.

With the support of CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership.

‘At the end of the nineteenth century when the Lumière brothers perfected their cinématographe, they dispatched envoys across the world to demonstrate the new technology. Their invention was about movement – the moving image was a form that travelled. Fast forward to the twenty-first century and here we are in the age of border control, security walls, global surveillance – a time that suggests the very opposite of movement. What function does the moving image play in this new landscape? Does it simply become a servant to the new closed-in world – an image of information, of evidence, of surveillance? Or can it sustain its promise to enable the migration of ideas around the world?’‘Over the past five years I’ve been concerned with questions of human migration and with the way counter-cinema can survive as an open space for thought and imagination in a world of isolationism. This programme focuses on the latter, on recent work that has not only taken figures of the left – Rudi Dutschke, Rosa Luxemburg – and imagined them for a new century, but also responds to the archives of twentieth-century filmmakers – Margaret Tait, Stanley Kubrick, Thorold Dickinson, Pier Paulo Pasolini. In the spirit of the early Lumière cinématographe demonstrations, this programme attempts to bring the world into the world, to re-imagine the travelling film show, to model the possibility of a renewed and renewing cinema of ideas in the twenty-first century.’


Tuesday 31 March, 14:00-16:00, Birkbeck Cinema 

Booking link

A first-person essay film about unlikely friendships and what it means to find a home

Film: Home in E Major, Tamar Rachkovsky, USA, 2019, Pro Res, 56 minutes

Following the screening, filmmaker Tamar Rachkovsky will be in conversation with researcher and programmer Kim Knowles.

With the support of the CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership and Duke University.

‘How do you know when you are home? Is it where you hang your hat? Or where you leave your heart? Moving from Jerusalem to Durham, North Carolina, I went from being at home to living as a foreigner. Living in an utterly unfamiliar environment, I became keenly aware of the paradoxical forces that transform a house, a material foundation and a modular environment, into a home that embraces, nurtures and sustains those who live in it. My film documents this transformation.

We were four strangers under the same roof – the landlady Elisabeth, a 93-year-old firecracker from Austria and a retired linguist, and her three tenants: Li, a 27-year-old engineering scholar from China, Stuart, a 75-year-old retired American lawyer, and myself, a 33-year-old filmmaker from Jerusalem. With time and often dramatic upheavals in the house together with budding friendships, the four of us came to support and care for one another. Home in E Major is a personal film, it documents a special meeting and a unique friendship.’ (Notes by Tamar Rachkowsky)


Monday 30 March, 10:00-19:00, Birkbeck Cinema 

Booking link

Ruchir Joshi Symposium: Essays in Text and Image

With the support of CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership, Goethe-Institut London, and Arsenal Institute for Film and Video Art (Berlin).

Filmmaker, novelist, reporter, columnist, photographer, essayist – Ruchir Joshi’s work has taken many forms and followed many paths, over the last four decades. Following the screenings of several of Joshi’s films as part of the Essay Film Festival, this symposium aims to examine that multidisciplinary work in the round – across different media and means of expression, and above all in the context of Indian culture and society, seen in a global perspective.

To do this, we are delighted to welcome a number of distinguished guests to the symposium, as well as Ruchir Joshi himself, who will be participating in several of the panels. Full details of the programme will be published in due course, but here is an outline of the themes and debates to feature in the symposium:

·         Ravi Vasudevan (CSDS, Delhi) and Giulia Battaglia (University of Paris) will be approaching Joshi’s film work from the point of view of documentary history and contemporary practices, especially in India and South Asia.

·         Markus Ruff (Berlin Arsenal) and Nicole Wolf (Goldsmiths) will discuss the recent restoration of Joshi’s essay films in relation to the cultural politics of film preservation and the exhibition of restored works.

·         Filmmaker and writer Paromita Vohra and artist Tony Cokes will engage with Joshi’s essayistic practice across different media and with his role as a political and cultural commentator.

·         Finally, Rashmi Varma (Warwick) will discuss Joshi’s literary work as a novelist and essayist. 

·         The symposium will also include screenings of short films not shown elsewhere in the Essay Film Festival.


Sunday 29 March, 20:30-22:30, ICA 

Booking link

Ruchir Joshi: short film programme and conversation

Films: Memories of Milk City: Sketches for a Film on Ahmedabad, Ruchir Joshi, India, 1991, DCP, English, Bengali and Hindi with English subtitles, 13 minutes

Tales from Planet Kolkata, Ruchir Joshi, India, 1993, DCP, English, Bengali and Hindi with English subtitles, 40 minutes

Following the screening, Ruchir Joshi will be in conversation with artist Tony Cokes.

With the support of CREAM (University of Westminster), CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership, Goethe-Institut London, and Arsenal Institute for Film and Video Art (Berlin).

This programme features two short city films that Ruchir Joshi made following the three-year experience of Eleven Miles. Commissioned by Alan Fountain at Channel Four, both films focus on Indian cities in the early 1990s, respectively Ahmedabad in Memories of Milk City and the filmmaker’s home-town in Tales from Planet Kolkata, employing what Joshi describes as ‘the first-person diary, the subjective essay and the meditative-poetic form’ to engage critically with existing representations of these places and their inhabitants, and crucially to propose new forms and ways of thinking about them.

The text of Memories of Milk City is written and spoken by Gujarati playwright and novelist Madhu Rye, whose playful and poetic voiceover reflects on his ambivalent feelings towards the changing nature of ‘the city of my language, not my birth’, notably the Americanisation that comes with a certain economic prosperity, while Joshi’s mobile camera records ‘sketches for a film on Ahmedabad’, as the film’s subtitle declares: children, young people, families, going about their daily routines of work and pleasure, in the busy markets or the quiet backstreets, urban life caught in moving snapshots rather than images of fixed meaning.A critique of typical imagery, again laced with humour, is explicitly central to Tales from Planet Kolkata, which gaily parodies and deconstructs Western-inflected cultural misrepresentations of India, and specifically Kolkata as either ‘the worst place in the world’, or conversely as ‘the City of Joy’ (indeed we see the making of Roland Joffé’s film of that name). But nor does Tales from Planet Kolkata ever posit a supposedly correct representation of Indian reality, instead there are always multiple possibilities, forms and questions. As if to underline this point, Joshi himself appears in the role of a grotesque ‘French’ filmmaker struggling to understand the truth of Indian urban life, while Tony Cokes plays a ‘rickshaw puller’ criticising Western presuppositions and fantasies about India.